Gajeel slept in scrapyards since the dissolution of his guild, Phantom Lord. He had nowhere to go, and his life had seemed to have lost all purpose. He scowled to think of that flamebrained dragon slayer who had beaten him. Never again!
Snow began to drift downwards. Gajeel glared up at it drearily. Of course, it was December…in fact wasn't it Christmas day tomorrow? Gajeel had seen people bustling around with presents and the like. He sneered to think of how soft they all were. What a bunch of fools. Clearly, he was the only smart person in this city…as he slept in a scrapyard in the snow. Dammit.
Ah well, fuck Christmas. Fuck it all to hell. Only weaklings sought strength from others. The strong were strong on their own two feet. Being alone was fine, in fact it was a sign of strength. He fell asleep, heedless of the numbing cold. It would make him stronger to survive it.
Across the way, the church bells chimed, signalling that it was one in the morning.
Gajeel started at a terrific white light, illuminating the scrapyard. In instants he was on his feet, bellowing challenges at anyone who dared enter his domain. The light resolved itself in the form of a tiny woman. Gajeel blinked, thinking of the midget that he'd beaten up a few days prior, but it wasn't her.
In fact, this person was clearly not alive.
"Greetings, Gajeel Redfox. I am the ghost of Christmas past," the spirit said in a high, childlike voice. She floated like a cloud, her body wreathed in a shimmering white light.
"I…uh…hi?" Gajeel responded, brain clearly not kicking in properly.
"You are very sad, aren't you?" She asked.
"What? Fuck you. I ain't sad," Gajeel spat. "I am strong!"
"Ah, but weren't you once happier?" Gajeel twitched. The ghost began to shine, engulfing the pair in her white light. "Come with me, Gajeel Redfox and we shall see."
Gajeel grimaced as the light faded. He looked around. He was in a vast, dense forest, far from the prying eyes of humans. This couldn't be…he hurried a short distance, looking for the clearing that he knew was there.
Within the clearing was a little boy. Him, over a decade ago. The black haired child, free of piercing, shrieked and laughed as he was tossed into the air over and over again by the head of an enormous beast.
Metalicana, the Iron Dragon.
"Dad," Gajeel breathed.
"It seems like your father was a kind man," the spirit said at his side.
"Yer kidding. Pops was a selfish bastard."
"So, what was different today?" She asked. Gajeel looked away, knowing the answer. The trees were covered in a fine layer of frost. It was winter. In fact, it was Christmas. A huge deer carcass sat roasting over an open fire – an unusual delicacy for the pair. Metalicana broke off a leg for the younger Gajeel and then swallowed the rest whole.
"This is easily the best holiday ya humans have come up with!" Metalicana said, his deep voice reverberating through the ground.
"Do I get a present?" The young Gajeel asked with glee.
"Ah, ah, be patient." The dragon reached up on top of high boulder to retrieve a small package. "Now, I can't wrap, because I'm a bit big, but here ya go!"
The metal object dropped in front of Gajeel and his eyes went wide. It was a sword forged from Metalicana's best iron. A horribly pragmatic gift for living in the wild, but the younger Gajeel was delighted. He hopped around, carelessly swinging the weapon as his father chuckled.
"You looked so happy," the ghost said.
"Tch. I was foolish. That sword was the first thing I ate when the bastard abandoned me." Gajeel began to trudge away and the world became white again.
"Very well, Gajeel Redfox. But we are not done with you yet."
The bells chimed twice, the sound floating out over the city.
What now? Gajeel thought as he woke from his slumber again. It was dark this time, the scrapyard lit by only the dim lights of the distant city.
"Come know me better, man!"
Gajeel practically fell over, wheeling to face the voice from behind him. Then he looked up. And up. And up. This guy was tall…easily as big as a dragon. He looked like a genial man, with long shaggy red hair and beard.
"I am the ghost of Christmas present. Come know me better, man! Did I say that already?"
"Ya did," Gajeel ventured cautiously.
"I am sorry, but my mind is filled with the here and now, I have no time for the past. I am the ghost of Christma-"
"If ya have somewhere to take me, just do it already!" Gajeel shouted.
"Very well! Come with me!" Gajeel blinked. He was standing outside the guild doors to Fairy Tail. The spirit, now merely the size of Elfman, walked past him, going up to the doors. "Today is the Christmas day that you will see tomorrow! Why don't we look inside?"
"Why would I want to do that?" Gajeel pouted as he walked right through the doors like a ghost. Inside, there was noise and ruckus as the guild sang and danced. Long tables groaned under the weight of all of the food. Gajeel began to salivate…damn that smelled good.
What was he supposed to see here? Sure, this looked like fun, but it was pointless, a frivolity. He didn't care. Inexorably, his gaze kept slipping back to something that he'd noticed. It was the two morons he'd beaten the shit out of. The doofus with the stupid hat and the one with the stupid hair. Between them, there was an empty seat.
"Oi, where's the midget?" Gajeel asked to the spirit.
"Oh? Why do you want to know?" He asked with mirth.
"DAMN SPIRIT! Don't bring me here then ignore me when I ask what ya want me to!" Gajeel blinked again. He was standing outside of a window…on the second floor of a building! He panicked, but he didn't fall. The spirit floating next to him pointed into the window and Gajeel peered in.
It was a small bedroom and books were piled high everywhere he looked. The bed itself was tiny, built for a much smaller person. Then he saw her. He involuntarily blushed, but she was not as naked as he first feared, it was just that her sleepwear revealed her arms and legs and shoulders.
She was standing before her mirror, examining herself, for that naked skin was covered in a myriad of bandages and plasters, as well as exposed scrapes and bumps and bruises. Initially, Gajeel smirked to admire his handiwork, but then he noticed the tears flowing freely down her face.
"Hey! Why is she crying? I beat her up fair and square!" Gajeel exclaimed.
"Is it so hard for you to understand? She is in pain."
"Oi, I'm in pain too! I had Salamander kick me around like a football!"
"But you asked for that, did you not? Did she ask for this?"
"Well…it's her own fault for being soft!" Gajeel pouted.
"And why is she soft?"
"Because she ain't a fighter!" Gajeel snapped, eyes widening at his own words. "She ain't like me…"
"And yet, you still thought her fair game."
"Well…I…uh…well why ain't she at the party!?" Gajeel sought around for a way to deflect the blame. "The other two morons are there and I kicked them around too!"
"I'm just a burden!" A high pitched voice shrieked. Gajeel looked through the window as Levy screamed at the person in the mirror. "I'm so weak! I couldn't do anything! They're…just better off without me! Christmas will be more fun for them if I'm not there! They shouldn't waste their time looking after a pathetic little weakling like me." Levy slumped to the floor, tears flowing.
Gajeel phased through the wall and shouted at her. "Hey, don't cry! God, you little pansy! Stand back up and move on! It ain't a big deal! Go, be with yer friends!" Levy was not a real thing though, and did not respond.
"I thought being with your friends was unimportant," the spirit said, eyes twinkling as it followed him.
"Well…for me, anyway," Gajeel said uncertainly.
A bell began to chime. Once, twice.
"Well, my time is up."
"Hey, wait!" Gajeel barked as reality dissolved around him.
"Just be patient, Gajeel Redfox, the next spirit would like to see you! But that is not of the present, so I am done!"
The bell rang for the third time, sounding like a death sentence.
Gajeel span, eyes wide. He was in a cemetery. Gravestones were everywhere. He grimaced as he saw names and numbers flash by. These dates…they hadn't come yet. This graveyard was in the future! His eyes alighted upon a gravestone at the very darkest part of the cemetery. It was covered in moss, obscuring the name. Heart filled with dread, he advanced upon it.
He stopped as a figure stepped out in front of him, shrouded by a long black cloak that hid his entire form.
"So yer the ghost of Christmas future, I guess?" Gajeel asked. There was no response, but an arm rose, sleeve sliding back to reveal a hand made of nothing but bones. It pointed at Gajeel and the world ceased to exist.
In a scrapheap, Gajeel watched as the guildmaster of Fairy Tail approached his future self. They began to talk, and Makarov offered him a place in the guild. Gajeel cockily declined, roaring that he would craft his own destiny.
Gajeel advanced towards the gravestone.
The Fairy Tail brats travelled to an island. He saw the little blue-haired girl amongst them, the stupid hat guy acting as her partner for the exam. As they advanced, a pair of Grimoire Heart wizards ambushed them. They fought bravely, but they were not strong enough and they both died. Gajeel watched her small body limply fall from the swordsman's blade.
He reached forward to scrape the moss away.
With Tenroujima annihilated, the world plunged into darkness. Grimoire Heart began to take over, their strength crushing all before them. Then came the dragons. Atop a mighty mountain, Gajeel fought with a black dragon, Acnologia, seeking the thrill of proving his strength. It wasn't even a contest. Gajeel fell screaming into oblivion.
Here lies Gajeel Redfox.
"No!" Gajeel roared. "Is this the future? Can it be changed? YOU, SPIRIT! Tell me, is this the future that must happen or one that may happen? Will that girl die like that?"
The girl? Not yourself?
Gajeel stopped mid-rant. What had he said? The world began to fade away. As it did, new visions began to dance before his eyes.
Gajeel took Makarov's hand, becoming a guild member. He fought alongside Salamander against a great lightning dragon, saving the guild. He met a black cat, who fought by his side. As the sword descended, Gajeel blocked it; driving back Levy's would be assassin.
Two children ran and played together, screaming for their parents to keep up. Levy sighed and went after them, dancing back to place a kiss on his lips by stretching as high as she could. "Come on, slowpoke!" She laughed as she ran on.
"Oi spirit! What's going to happen?"
None can know the future, Gajeel Redfox.
Gajeel awoke in his scrapyard. He looked into the sky which was a pale blue as the sun began its ascent. So, morning had come after all. He rushed to the edge of the yard and stopped a small boy who was walking past.
"You boy, what day is it?" He barked. The boy ran away in sheer fright. "Huh. Not how I expected that to go…you boy!" He shouted at a boy further away. "What day is it?"
"It's Christmas you retard!" He hollered back, laughing as he ran away.
"Kids these days!" Gajeel raged. He shook himself. He'd been given a new lease on life. He knew exactly where he should be and he didn't have long. He needed to find an open butcher on Christmas day!
"I'm so weak! I couldn't do anything! They're…just better off without me! Christmas will be more fun for them if I'm not there! They shouldn't waste their time looking after a pathetic little weakling-"
Levy's words stopped abruptly as her window was opened from the outside. She whirled around and shrieked in fright at the man stepping through. Oh God, everyone was at the guild! She could feel her injuries throb in sympathy, terrified of another beating.
He placed down a plate containing what looked like an expertly cooked turkey. It was surrounded by a plethora of steaming roast vegetables. It had cost a pretty penny, but the butcher had been a very kind man, seeing a vagrant in need on Christmas day.
"W…what?" She fumbled out the words in her terror.
"A small runt like ya needs to eat more," he said callously. "It ain't good for ya to miss out on a decent meal."
"W…what?" Levy repeated. Suddenly she blushed and shouted back. "I am not a runt!"
"Whatever, Shorty," Gajeel replied, rolling his eyes. "Oh, and here's yer present."
Levy blinked as a bundle of cloth hit her in the face. She examined it as it fell into her lap. It was a pink headband. "How did you know?"
"That ya like headbands?" Gajeel replied sarcastically, nodding at her forehead. He moved towards the window, ready to leave. He'd done enough for today. All this niceness was making him dizzy!
"Um…what about you?" Levy asked.
"What?" Gajeel was startled by the question.
"Do you have any food, or any presents?"
"No, of course I don't," Gajeel spat harshly.
"Well, I can't eat all of this, do you want some?" She asked, gesturing to the turkey.
"Why would you offer that to me?" Gajeel asked, perplexed. "I hurt ya."
"It's Christmas!" Levy beamed like the sun. "If we can't put aside our differences today, then when can we? Come on! I have plates, knives and forks in the kitchen! Come on!"
Gajeel watched as she got up, moving as quickly as she could. He could clearly see her wince as she moved, her limbs acting awkwardly. And still, she was full of generous spirit. Gajeel followed her out of the bedroom door.
Maybe Christmas wasn't so bad.
Hohoho! Happy holidays everyone! And thanks to Piranha for the cover pic!